Local student fundraising to bring music into foster kids' lives.
When Roger Williams University junior Jason Rosa landed an interview this past summer with national non-profit Together We Rise, an organization dedicated to improving the lives of foster children in America, he made sure he was going in prepared.
While researching the organization and the challenges that kids in foster care face every day, Jason learned that while Together We Rise had a variety of programs aimed at providing foster children with a sense of normalcy and belonging through sports, they had yet to explore what positive impact music might have. As someone who finds playing guitar and the keyboard to be an enjoyable outlet in his own life, Jason saw an immediate opportunity to help Together We Rise add a music-focused program to its arsenal.
Jason is now fundraising, with the goal of raising $3,000 by the end of the semester in both monetary and instrument donations from local music shops and vendors so that more local foster youth can learn how to play an instrument or simply have fun with music. All of the fundraising will go towards children in Rhode Island foster homes.
Among the facts Jason learned about the more than 2,500 foster children in Rhode Island (nearly 300 of whom are waiting for someone to adopt them): some 50 percent of foster children under the age of 5 have developmental delays, while 80 percent of children in foster care have serious emotional problems. As a result, when these children "age out" of the system, they are highly likely to become homeless, ill, unemployed, and incarcerated, among other poor outcomes.
An imperfect safety net may exacerbate a foster child's struggle to achieve normalcy. "Most of the time, kids moving between homes can only take two garbage bags of belongings with them," Jason says. (Another Together We Rise initiative, "Sweetcases," is seeking to address that, distributing duffel bags packed with a blanket, toiletries, books and a pillow pet to foster children—learn more at www.togetherwerise.org/projects/sweetcases.)
When pitching his project to Together We Rise, Jason listed a number of benefits of learning to play an instrument, including fostering self-expression; teaching discipline, responsibility, and perseverance; and relieving stress, anger management, and depression.
Playing music wasn't always something Jason did, while growing up in Cranston and graduating from Cranston West. In fact, he only picked up the guitar four years ago—and the piano last year. Surprisingly, he's never even taken a traditional lesson, per se: "I basically learned how to play the guitar off YouTube," he says.
For Jason, who wants to go into digital marketing after graduation, this project is more than a little personal. As a child, he dealt with stress and anxiety through sports and exercise, but found that wasn’t enough. "I started playing the guitar during the summer of my junior year in high school after my friend had taught me some basic songs," he says. "That Christmas I asked my parents for a guitar and I haven’t looked back since—and my grades dramatically improved the more I played." Jason also credits the guitar with helping him overcome a tendency toward shyness.
"Music has made such a positive impact in my life," he says. "I believe it is so important that kids get to experience the beauty that is music. With foster kids facing more problems and adversity than the average child, I believe it is necessary that they get the opportunity to express themselves in a positive way."
How to help:
Jason is accepting monetary and equipment donations, via a fundraising page: www.fundraise.com/together-we-rise-corporation/musical-instruments-for-foster-children.